Dying to Fit In


How times have changed. Gasp! At 30, I'm already muttering those words.

It was 1984, and I was returning to Fountain Valley High School as a junior. I was in the Advanced Placement program, earning credits for college. I was in French Club. I was on the school newspaper.

And I had blue hair.

Not just any blue hue. The shade screamed "neon." It was the latest assault on my natural chestnut tresses, which had undergone midnight black, various gradations of red and, finally, platinum blond to achieve this latest color. Homemade attempts with primitive dyes available then ended up in a rainbow mess.

A colorist in the Orange Circle who specialized in punk 'dos labored six hours trying to get the dye to attach itself to my abused hair. By 1 a.m., it worked.

The next day on campus, word spread fast, and the inquiries from strangers grew tiresome. Had I traded in my rockabilly affiliation for punk? (No, I dressed the same.) Was I trying to get attention? (No, it was fashion and no big deal in my club scene.) And the almighty: What would Mr. Ybarra say?

Mr. Ybarra was the dean of supervision and, as far as my freaky classmates were concerned, he was too focused on appearance. Not surprisingly, he didn't care for my new look.

"I'll have to call your mother to inform her about The Hair," he said.

This struck me as odd, since my lovely mom, a champion for her two daughters' unconventional attire so long as we maintained our grades and minded our manners--had patiently watched as I went blue the night before. My dad, who usually loved the retro duds, was another story. He declared I looked "worse than any hippie who ever lived."

"She knows," I told Mr. Ybarra.


Though I enlisted several teachers to argue that The Hair did not detract from the learning process, I never got to take the dean to task. So damaged were my locks that the color didn't stick past the first wash, and I soon had to lop it all off and go dark.

Today, at Fountain Valley High--as at most Orange County campuses--neither blue nor any other Technicolor hair elicits a threat of suspension.

"It's so commonplace that it's not an issue any more," said Fountain Valley High's vice principal, Rod Rashke, who oversees supervision and dress codes. "It's considered a form of self-expression."

That's just what I was trying to tell Mr. Ybarra.

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